Let’s face it, Americans are not well traveled. Of course there are exceptions, but as someone who has been to 45 countries, I do not meet a lot of American’s on my journeys. The vast majority of American’s like the close to home getaways of Mexican and Caribbean resorts or the puddle jumps to the well beaten paths of Europe. Why? They are easy and a short plane ride away.
Americans work a lot of and take less than 17 days of vacation a year, one of the lowest rates of any industrialized nation. Take a standard 9 day holiday (with weekends), throw in an 8 hour + flight and the stresses of a foreign place (i.e. limited English, different currency, logistics) and you have the reason why many Americans simply don’t bother.
I have created a list of the most underrated countries for Americans. These are places where I generally do not see a lot of Americans and have a lot to offer their visitor.
Turkey is perhaps one of the greatest kept secrets of Europe for the American wanderer. Istanbul is a cultural gem and flipping gorgeous and intersects with the Bosphorus. To the east, there is Cappadocia, a place of whimsy with rock formations that only nature could have thought up and Turkey also has a pristine, albeit rocky coastline that rivals anything you get in Greece at a fraction of the cost.
The locals speak English a very aggressive clip and there is a very developed tourism network that can get you anywhere in the country in comfort. Plus, the current exchange rate is gangbusters against the dollar.
Why: 8 hour flight from NYC
Where: Istanbul, Cappadocia, Effes, Turkish Coast (Fethiye-Oludeniz-Kas)
Most Americans if going to SE Asia make a bee line for Thailand and you won’t hear a bad word about that country from this wanderer but Vietnam as some pretty amazing things to see. From America’s failed attempt to prevent the spread of Communism here, it’s an operating capitalist communist country, and it’s economic capitalist rebirth, Vietnam is an interesting mix of gung ho capitalism in communism clothing.
Vietnam has 3,440 miles of coastline and countless stretches of undeveloped white sand beaches. Ha Noi sits in the very north of this snake-like country and still infuses a french colonial charm in the city and Sai Gon (Ho Chi Minh) in the sultry south, hums to the sound of a million motorbike horns in traffic. In the middle is a former Japanese trading port now travel hotspot of Hoi An.
Why: 18 hour flight from SFO
Where: Ha Noi, Sai Gon, Ha Long Bay, Mui Ne, Hue, Hoi An
I know India is not on most American’s top 10 or even top 100 list, home to 447 registered languages and 1.2 billion souls, India presents a rich tapestry of culture and diversity. Depending where you go, India has a vacation for any mood: religious pilgrimages, beach holidays, party trips cultural tours, yoga jams and lonely wandering.
If you are hard pressed for time as most Americans are, you can stick to an organized or guided tour check out our India tours!) or focus on the golden triangle, Delhi-Taj Mahal- Jaipur, easily done in a week. The north is the hindu language dominated tea growing and mountainous regions and the south becomes flatter and more tropical, ideal for quiet lingering.
Why: 15 hour flight from NYC
Where: Delhi, Agra, Udaipur, Varnasi, Darjeeling, Mumbai, Fort Kochi, Calcutta, Chennai, Pondicherry
This is the closest European country to the United States east coast. Iceland is a less than 5 hours from Boston Logan airport and just amazing. Forged by volcanoes and glaciers, the drop dead views and vistas will have you in awe for days.
Reykjavik is the capital and the best place to start. You could stay here the entire week but it’s best to rent a car and go exploring on the ring road, this circumvents the entire country and could be driven in 1 very long day. You will pass numerous waterfalls, dormant volcanoes, dairy farms and barren landscapes. Iceland will definitely stay with you ong after you have left.
Why: 4.5 hour flight from Boston
When: June- Sept
Where: Reykjavik, Vik, Akureyri, Westman Islands